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Authors: Ann Dee Ellis

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BOOK: Everything Is Fine.
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Nonetheless. Nonetheless, you are not supposed to be here and you have to get out, you government boob lady.

I pull a hair from my bangs. “You can’t talk to her. She’s concentrating.”

“Mazeline, go get her or I’ll get her myself.”

I pull another hair and it looks gray. “Does this look gray to you?”

Mrs. Peet stands up and yells, “Mrs. Roany?”

“Ms.,” I say.

No one answers back.

“Mrs. Roany,” she yells again, and again I say, “It’s Ms.”


“I told you,” I say.

Mrs. Peet clears her throat.

That’s when I say, “The end,” and stand up.

“What are you doing?”

I say again, “The end, and you can go now,” and I open the door.

Mrs. Peet says, “Honey, you’re not getting rid of me that fast.”

She gets up, walks down the hall, and starts looking in rooms without even asking me.

I follow her because she didn’t ask me.

Mom is curled up today.

But I did remember Mrs. Peet was coming so at least she has some lipstick and a sweater on.

“Hi, Mrs. Roany.”

“It’s Ms.,” I say.

Mrs. Peet doesn’t answer me or anything. Instead she writes on a clipboard and she says, “How long has she been like this?”

I shrug.

“Is she always like this?”


“Mrs. Roany?” she says again.

“She’s tired. She was working for hours before you got here.”

Mrs. Peet gives me an old-woman look and says, “Has she been to see any health-care professionals?”


“Who’s Bill?”

“He takes care of her. He’s a nurse and he comes over all the time.”

She writes something down.

“What’s wrong with her?”


“Nothing? What’s the diagnosis?”

“Nothing. She’s just tired, like I said.”

Then she’s looking at the clothes on the floor.

“What are all these clothes doing?” she says.

“They’re mine,” I say.

“Why are they in here?”

I don’t say anything. Instead, I look in the mirror and I have red eyes today.

“Hey. You listening to me? Why are your clothes all over this room? Don’t you have your own room?”

I put my face real close to the mirror and look at the yellow between my teeth.

Mrs. Peet is silent and looking at me and we’re both looking in the mirror at each other but I am also looking at the yellow
between my teeth.

Then she says, “Something has to be done around here. I don’t care who your father is.”

I say, “He’s coming home soon. He’s going to be here probably tomorrow or the next day.” I look at her now. I turn around
and look at her. “Everything is fine. He’s just gone for a few days.”

Mrs. Peet is writing something on her clipboard again and then her pocket starts buzzing.

She looks at her cell. “Mazeline, I have to go but I will be back. I need your father’s cell number.”

I go back to looking at the yellow in my teeth.


I gave her a number.

“That’s your home phone.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I’ve gotten the machine six times.”

I sort of smile but then I pick up some floss from under a bag of eye shadows.

“Tell me now, Mazeline.”

I think about giving her a fake number but instead I say the real one.

She types it into her phone and then shakes her head. “I guess I should warn you, things are going to change around here.
You can’t be here alone with her. Your daddy and I are going to have a talk.”

My gums start to bleed.

And then she sort of jumps over the clothes in the doorway, like if she walked on them, something bad would happen.

And she’s gone.

I slam the door after her and then open it and slam it again.

In the kitchen I pull out some mayonnaise and a spoon.

Out the window I see Mrs. Peet and Mrs. Dean talking outside.

I start to feel hot.

. P
: crayons on cardboard


I text-message Dad a code word: Government.

This is the first time I have ever texted Dad since he left at the beginning of June.

It’s now the beginning of July.

He calls all the time but usually I don’t answer.

And I never text.

Until now.

Me and Mom are fine except for when the government says we’re not.


Maybe Norma could help.


My mom used to travel. Before she met Dad.

She has a painting called
Beachy Head.

“What’s Beachy Head?” I asked once when she was working on it.

“A cliff. A cliff by Brighton,” she said. Looking at the painting with a brush in her mouth. “It’s windy and beautiful and

“Oh,” I said.

And then she looked at me. “I went there several times while I was in England. The wind made me feel like I could fly.”

I thought about that. My mom flying. “One day I’ll take you there,” she said. “You have to feel the wind at Beachy Head.”

“Okay,” I said.

And then we both looked at the painting.


I ask Colby if he knows Norma.


“You don’t? She lives across the street.”

“I know. She’s lived there forever, duh.”

“I thought you said you don’t know her.”

“I don’t.”


Then, like she heard us talking, she comes out on her front porch, her fat swinging because she’s wearing a tank top.

“Hey!” she yells.

Colby swears under his breath and I see her fat again. She is a fat fat fatty. We’re sitting in the sprinklers and Colby says,
“This summer sucks so bad.”

Norma is walking over and Colby is getting up. “Wait wait wait, young man,” Norma calls. “I got something for both of you.”

Colby still gets up and goes into his house.

She is breathing hard and her flowered tank is soaking under her armpits.

“Where’d he go?”

“I don’t know.”

“Oh, well. I have something for just you then.”

She holds out a fist.

I wonder if she has a fish in there.

“Do you want it?”

“What is it?”

“Get up and see.”

She’s standing outside the sprinklers in slippers and her makeup is starting to drip from the sun.

I get up and shake the water off.

“Are you excited?” she asks, holding the fist out as I get to her.

“Umm, hmm.”

She starts to open it — one finger at a time, but just when I’m about to see, she clenches it again and starts to laugh.

“I’m just kidding, sugar,” she says and opens it all the way.

It isn’t a fish.

It’s two scrunched-up pieces of orange paper.

“Oh,” I say.

“Take them both,” she says.

I take them and put them in my shorts pocket.

“Honey, don’t you even want to see what’s on them?”

I shrug and her mole starts shaking again because she’s laughing. “That’s fine. That’s fine, honey. You are one original girl.”

I want to karate chop her but instead she does something I didn’t know she was going to do.

She grabs me and hugs me.

I am in her fat fat fatty rolly all around me and it’s hot and smells like bread and coconut.

At first I just stand there and let her hug me.

Then I put my arms around her.

They don’t even get to her sides, and she says, “Oh my.”

Finally, she lets me go and her mascara is down her face.

That’s when I decide Norma can fix things.


I see a strange man out the window looking with Colby’s dad at the Dean Machine.

But I don’t see Colby.

I’m holding Mom’s sorbet and watching.

He has his shirt off and is looking at his arm while Mr. Dean is talking at him with his hands. He doesn’t have guns like

Then Mrs. Dean comes out and then Dixie, but this time the bikini is blue with stripes and she’s wearing cutoffs.

Dixie looks like she doesn’t care about anything.

I don’t either.

She kisses the strange man. I guess Henry from Wichita is gone.

I don’t see Colby.

They all get in the Suburban and Mom says, “Mazzy?”

It’s quiet but I can hear her even quiet.

“Yeah, Mom. I’m coming.”

The hum of the swamp cooler maybe didn’t let her hear me so I say it louder. “I’m coming.”

But I still watch.

Mr. Dean starts the car and the Dean Machine slowly pulls out of the driveway.

That’s when Colby comes running out in different swimming trunks that I’ve never seen.

He’s running out and then someone else is behind him.

But it’s not Randy.

It’s a girl.


“So it’s a girl I’ve never seen.”

She is sitting up and not looking at me.

“I think it’s his girlfriend.”

Mom’s nightgown is the blue one and it’s stuck to her chest from the sweat. I lean over and pull it away and blow.

“Does that feel better?”

She turns her head toward the window and I keep going.

“Do you think it’s a girlfriend? Because I don’t.”

Then I tell her about Norma and the pieces of paper she stuffed in my hand that say: “One Free Frosty from Wendy’s.” And I
tell her how I have two.

“So I could get us both one.”

And I could because Wendy’s is on Ninth and we live on Sixth.

I tell her how Colby is different now and that school might be bad this year because Katy Buchanan said you have to change
classes and there’s not enough time to get to your locker because you get a demerit if you’re late so you have to carry your
books all over and you could get a hernia.

I also say, “The only good thing is I’m going to take art like you, Mom.”

She still looks out the window and a sweat drip runs down her neck.

I almost tell her about the paintings I already did but I don’t want her to know I’m in her studio.

So instead I tell her about Lisa and José and how things are tight for them — that’s why we don’t have any marshmallows or

I tell her that Norma is driving around with Mr. Grobin and how her fat is bigger than it was last year after the accident
when she was here for three days straight and made that soup that gave Dad diarrhea.

That was the first time I ever really talked to Norma.

I tell her I record Dad’s show so she can watch if she feels like it.

I tell her there’s a social worker named Mrs. Peet who isn’t nice and says things have to change.

I also tell her that if she wants, I can help her get dressed and we could go to the beach.

When I say that, she turns and says one thing: “Quiet.”


Lisa got us three oranges.

I peel one and mash it into orange juice for me and Mom.

Mine tastes good but I think Mom’s doesn’t.

I put the other two in the black bikini top and go to the mirror.

It looks okay except you can see that they are oranges and not boobs.

They still aren’t as big as Dixie’s.


I have a sunburn from sitting outside, which on
they say is very dangerous.

I put my mom’s aloe vera on it.


When the Dean Machine comes back, there is only Mr. and Mrs. Dean and Colby getting out.

I watch them get out and Colby run toward the house.

Mr. Dean yells, “Get your butt back here!”

Mrs. Dean is getting something out of the hatch and doesn’t say anything and Colby is turning around.

Mr. Dean gives him a towel and says something I can’t hear.

Colby starts wiping the Dean Machine.

I am wearing the oranges.

I put on one of Dad’s old T-shirts over them and go outside.


Colby doesn’t say anything. He just keeps wiping.

His dad and mom are carrying bags and coolers into the house.

“Hi, Mazzy,” Mrs. Dean says.

“Hi, Mrs. Dean,” I say.

And she doesn’t say anything about the oranges. Colby hasn’t even seen them yet.

“What are you doing?” I ask him.

“Crapping my pants,” he says.

But he isn’t. He is wiping down the boat.

“Oh,” I say.

Then I say, “Who was that girl?”

“What girl?”

“That girl who went with you guys.”

He stops wiping but still doesn’t look at me. “Nobody.”


“My girlfriend, I mean,” he says.

I swallow and say, “I know.”

He looks at me now. “What do you mean, you know?”

“I could tell it was your girlfriend.”


“By things I know.”

“What does that mean?”

“Just how I know things.”

He sticks a finger in his ear and then his dad comes out and says, “You can work while you talk to Mazzy, Colby.” And Colby
starts wiping again.

“What’s her name?” I ask.

He wipes and then he says, “Sexy.”

“Oh,” I say. “Where’d you meet her?”

“She saw me at McDonald’s and said I was the hottest guy she’d ever seen and she got my number.”

BOOK: Everything Is Fine.
8.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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